It is a true honor to become the 94th President of ACI. Words can't describe this exceptional milestone in my career. Sharing my background with you, and how ACI has been the core driver for my success, might best explain how humbled I am.
I graduated as a civil engineer from AUB—the American University of Beirut, Lebanon—in June 1985. The only job I could find was in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was a laboratory engineer position with Ready Mix Beton, a fast-growing ready mixed concrete company in the Arabian Gulf.
I learned the hard way that being a civil engineer does not necessarily mean someone understands concrete. This was particularly true in the Gulf region, with its perfect recipe for concrete corrosion: very high humidity, exceptionally high temperatures, and plenty of airborne salts because of the adjacency to the sea. Much more than academic knowledge or the technical resources available locally at that time was needed to overcome the challenges of producing durable and workable concrete in the Gulf.
My first employer, Khaled Ghandour, to whom I owe a lot of my professional advancement, sent me to the 1987 World of Concrete in Houston, TX. It was at the ACI booth, while looking at the dozens of codes, guides, and publications, that I truly started drinking from the fire hose of concrete knowledge.
Back then, other than ACI, no authority in the world had addressed hot weather concrete. In ACI 305, Guide to Hot Weather Concreting, I found the appropriate correction for so many misperceptions in the local industry.
The pumpability chart in ACI 304.2, Placing Concrete by Pumping Methods, was my key reference for designing concrete mixtures, and ACI 308, Guide to External Curing of Concrete, was my post-placing gift for every contractor.
ACI helped my employer and me in educating the market in Abu Dhabi. A few years later, Ready Mix Beton grew to become a multinational company, and ACI had an indirect equity in its technical success. In 1995, I asked the ACI Certification Department how I could certify my field and lab technicians. At that time, there was no local sponsoring group for ACI in the Middle East. John Nehasil, ACI's current Managing Director of Certification, sent me all the required documentation to start the first sponsoring group in the region, as it was impractical to send technicians to the United States.
The moment I received John's letter, I decided it was time I started my own business. I went back to Lebanon in 1996 to establish Advanced Construction Technology Services (ACTS), a consulting firm with laboratories for testing concrete and other construction materials. To expedite the certification initiative, John introduced me to Wally Rooke, ACI examiner and at that time Secretary of the Manitoba Chapter – ACI. Wally helped me in developing the training materials and assisted ACI in metricating the certification exams. We started promoting ACI Certification in every country of the Middle East, and we held the first ACI Certification session in Lebanon in December 1996. We then expanded to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, and Qatar. By 1998, with the help of Wally who traveled with me to deliver the programs, and the support of ACI staff, ACI Certification (and ACTS) became popular in most countries of the region. Wally also assisted me in establishing the Lebanon Chapter – ACI.
Today, ACTS has become a multinational company, enjoying a unique reputation for integrity and knowledge. Needless to say, ACI has so much equity in this success.
ACI Past President Jim Wight once said during a board meeting that people become emotional when they receive an ACI award—not just because of the recognition bestowed on them, but because the award was a strong reminder of how ACI helped them become who they are. This could not be more true for me.
For that, and for the bigger mission of advancing concrete construction that ACI represents, I am full of enthusiasm to serve you in the best possible ways during my Presidential term. I am also very aware of various expectations about having a President from outside the Americas for the first time in ACI's history. I look forward to joining with the ACI staff, the Executive Committee, and the Board of Direction in living up to your greatest expectations.
Khaled W. Awad